Despite reports of disarray on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, it doesn’t appear to have slowed the process of filling key positions. Trump has announced his picks for chief of staff, national security adviser, and his first cabinet secretary as fast or faster than many of his recent predecessors.
Trump selected RNC chairman Reince Priebus as chief of staff just five days after winning election. Of the last five presidents, only Barack Obama acted more quickly. George H.W. Bush took nine days, Ronald Reagan ten, and Bill Clinton waited more than a month before announcing who would run his White House staff.
Clinton also took his time in announcing a first cabinet secretary and national security adviser: 37 and 49 days respectively. Trump named both just ten days after the election.
George W. Bush announced his first cabinet secretary three days after Al Gore conceded. But he’d had more than a month to think it over, thanks to the lengthy legal battle over ballot recounts.
Trump’s own transition hit a speed bump days after the election when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had been leading the effort during the summer, was pushed aside. Vice President-elect Mike Pence took charge of the operation, and the push to fill thousands of administration jobs appeared to be starting over from scratch.
The pace of appointments is just one consideration, of course. Trump has drawn criticism in some quarters for naming Steven Bannon as a top White House adviser. Bannon, who was CEO of the Trump campaign, previously chaired the right-wing Breitbart website, a favorite with white nationalists. Likewise, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, was denied a federal judgeship in the 1980s after allegations of racism. And Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, has drawn fire for harsh statements about Islam. He was also dismissed as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency over management concerns.
A transition spokesman defended Sessions and Flynn on Friday, saying both men are widely respected. The spokesman noted that Sessions filed a number of desegregation cases when he was U.S. Attorney in Alabama, and also led the effort in 1999 to award a Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.
“Lots of reasons to be concerned,” said former Obama adviser David Axelrod on Twitter. “But the pace of announcements isn’t one of them.”
By this point in the transition, Obama had yet to name his first cabinet secretary. (He tapped Eric Holder to be Attorney General 14 days after the 2008 election.) In 1980, Ronald Reagan took just three days to announce his pick for education secretary (Terrell Bell). And George H.W. Bush announced his choice of James Baker as Secretary of State just one day after the 1988 election.